A Grandma With True Grit

To avoid an arranged marriage, woman left Austria for a new life in America.

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Ida Aman was born in Austria on November 23,1868, to Jacobi and Caroline Aman. Jacobi died two years later, and Caroline was left to provide for Weindelin and Ida, his younger sister. Caroline married again to a local farmer friend and had two more children.

As a child Ida had a beautiful singing voice. She acquired a guitar and learned to play and yodel in the Swiss style. Her lilting voice echoed through the mountains and valleys of the Tyrolean Alps where she lived. She became quite popular in the nearby villages.

Caroline died when Ida was in her teens. She kept house and did all of the many tasks that her mother had previously done. She also corresponded with a friend, Josef, who had immigrated to the United States and taken up residence in a Chicago boarding house. She looked forward to going to America and marrying Josef and having a family in Chicago.

When Ida reached 18 she was shocked, bewildered, then infuriated because her stepfather announced his intentions to marry her. He was lonely, needed a wife and companion, and Ida was his most likely choice.

This horrible idea forced Ida to make several quick decisions. She decided she must leave Austria. She sought and received help from her brother Weindelin, who now operated a lace factory in Feldkirch near the Swiss border. Ida sold what little jewelry and material wealth she could find, and with her suitcase and beloved guitar, fled to the French coast and a new life in America.

Traveling alone, with little or no money, she arrived in Chicago only to find that Josef had left town to find work in St. Louis. She worked at the Chicago boarding house, saving her money to travel to St. Louis. By then she had communicated with Josef, who had found her a job in a boarding house near the railroad roundhouse.

She again performed well as a domestic in her new job and was well liked by all. Josef visited regularly, and she entertained the boarders with singing and playing the guitar. The landlady enjoyed the entertainment but soon became jealous of Ida's popularity. This jealously soon manifested itself when Josef called and was told that Ida was out with another man. This was a bold-faced lie, but Josef didn't know the truth. He was hurt and angry and left, never to return. Ida found out the truth much later.

Knowing little English and alone again in a foreign country, Ida courageously continued to become more social and outgoing. During this time Ida met August Haukap at a local dance hall. This meeting led to others and eventually her only marriage.

August was a happy, loving man and father. Five children were born to the couple: Elizabeth the eldest, August, Wenceslas, Marie and the youngest, William. They were a happy family, yet very poor. August was a hard-working teamster but had a drinking habit--common in those days. After receiving his weekly pay he would stop at the comer saloon and pay his liquor bill. This left much less money for the family expenses. This alcohol abuse caused the family much pain. One fateful morning, August, who also tended and hitched the horses, left the barn late and did not have time for his morning shot of whiskey. He became dizzy and fell from the high seat of the piano-moving wagon. His head and back struck the cobblestone street, and he was carried home by friends. He died several days later, only 37 years old.

Ida, now with five children, was forced again to demonstrate her vast courage and face another challenge in her young life. She washed and ironed laundry, which the children delivered in their little wagon. She sewed and mended for the neighborhood. She was subject to call anytime of the day or night to serve as a mid-wife. She kept the family together. As the children graduated from elementary school, they found jobs wherever they could, some locally, others in the harvest fields, each contributing their share to the family coffers. All in all there was much love and happiness in this family.

As the children became older they married and left home. Ida and her son, Wenceslas, were left to live together. When he married, Ida lived with Wence and his wife, Rose. During this time Ida continued gardening both flowers and vegetables. She also sewed, quilted, and helped in the household duties. At age 69 Ida broke her hip and was hospitalized, where she contracted pneumonia and died on July 3,1938. Ida was a loving, caring person to all she met and in turn was equally loved by all.

Ralph Litzsinger
Mountain Grove, Missouri


Back in 1955 a call went out from the editors of the then Capper’s Weekly asking for readers to send in articles on true pioneers. Hundreds of letters came pouring in from early settlers and their children, many now in their 80s and 90s, and from grandchildren of settlers, all with tales to tell. So many articles were received that a decision was made to create a book, and in 1956, the first My Folks title – My Folks Came in a Covered Wagon – hit the shelves. Nine other books have since been published in the My Folks series, all filled to the brim with true tales from Capper’s readers, and we are proud to make those stories available to our growing online community.